Bone graft

Alternative names 
Autograft; Allograft

A bone graft is surgery to place new bone into spaces between or around broken bone (fractures) or holes (defects) in bone. New bone to be grafted around fractures or defects can be taken from the patient’s own healthy bone (autograft) or from frozen, donated bone (allograft).


An incision is made over the bone defect and the bone graft is shaped and inserted into and around the defect. The graft is held in place with pins, plates, or screws. The incisions are stitched closed. A splint or cast is usually used to prevent injury or movement while healing.

Bone grafts are used for the following:

  • Treatment of bone breaks (fractures) with bone loss  
  • Repair of injured bone that has not healed  
  • Treatment of joints to prevent movement (fusion)

Risks for any anesthesia include the following:

  • Reactions to medications  
  • Problems breathing

Risks for any surgery include the following:

  • Bleeding  
  • Infection

Expectations after surgery
Most bone grafts are successful in helping the bone defect to heal with little risk of graft rejection.

Recovery time depends on the injury or defect being treated and generally varies from 1 to 10 days. Vigorous exercise may be restricted for up to 3 months.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 4, 2012
by Janet G. Derge, M.D.

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